Jack Ma: China’s richest billionaire

“Today is difficult. Tomorrow is much more difficult. But the day after tomorrow is beautiful.”
-Jack Ma, Alibaba founder

THERE will be a lot of problems, yes, but people should not lose hope. Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma shared this philosophy in doing business.

Ma says he never thought he’d someday stand in front of the world’s finest minds to talk about his dream. He did just that in Manila last Nov. 18, where leaders of 21 countries and executives of Fortune 500 companies gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. To round off his luck that day, in a last minute change of plans, he was even interviewed by no less than US President Barack Obama.

Part of their discussion had Ma telling Obama how he thinks government and businesses could work together to help young entrepreneurs. “Government is simple — just reduce the tax, or no tax, for these guys,” Ma said to rousing laughter at the summit, as reported by Reuters. “You got a lot of cheers from your fellow CEOs,” Obama said in response.

Ma also shared how Alibaba has been investing 0.3 percent of the company’s total revenue into climate change solutions derived from young minds and other environmental issues over the past six years.

Ma further said at the summit that he is an optimist, “You should always have hope. Try to make sure that it’s not only in the movies you see ‘Mission Impossible’. In real life you have to make mission possible.”

Drawing from his own experience in building a business empire from scratch, Jack Ma is the kind of exceptional and talented leader who redefined the path of success. Defying the odds, Ma spearheaded e-commerce in China. As the executive chairman and founder of Alibaba Group, China’s leading Internet business entity, he is among the topmost Chinese entrepreneurs who made it to the coveted Forbes list in recent years.

Ma deviated from conventional methods to give his country the benefits of Internet-based commerce. He lacked any technology and computing background, and that makes his success even more astounding than the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. When he started his career as an English teacher, few could have predicted he would become an Internet mogul.

Fresh off the biggest IPO in history, Ma is now the richest person in China, worth an estimated $25 billion, which includes his 7.8 percent stake in Alibaba and a nearly 50 percent stake in payment processing service Alipay.

Ma is a true rags-to-riches story. He grew up poor in communist China, failed his college entrance exam twice, and was rejected from dozens of jobs, including one at KFC, before finding success with his third Internet company, Alibaba.

He was born and raised in Hangzhou, in China’s Zhejiang Province, born Sept. 10, 1964. His zeal to enhance his aptitude and acquire new skills was evident from childhood. As a teenager, he started communicating with foreign tourists to enhance his English skills. He entered the Hangzhou Normal University and completed graduation in English. Later in his life, he attended Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing.

How many people go off to college and university then find themselves not even needing the qualification they studied for by their mid 20’s?

Ma recalled how he and 17 others who started Alibaba in his apartment years ago knew nothing about the Internet.

“Until today, the only thing I know about the computer is how to receive and send emails, browse, and watch videos.”

What he is most interested in is how nations can use the web to help small businesses grow across the world. He said in China, Alibaba has helped 12 million merchants sell to customers online.

If free trade across physical borders is hard to resolve, Ma said it’s better to start online. He recalled how technological advancement brought about the first and second world wars. He said today, technology should be used to fight a third world war – the one against poverty, climate change, and disease.

“We have to build a world that is more transparent, a world that is more inclusive, a world that cares about others and empowers others.”

According to him, most of the innovation will come from the Internet generation or those who were born after the 1980s.

And with innovation, he said the world will be even more connected. Globalization, he explained, helped pump up the world economy but it was mostly developed nations that benefited from it.

Ma is now venturing into film production. A visionary, Jack Ma is an inspiration to an entire generation.


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